Ex-Knicks coach Dave Fizdale weighs in on Chris Paul trade rumor: ‘Great fit but…’

The New York Knicks need Chris Paul more than he needs them.

That’s how ex-Knicks head coach David Fizdale sees the situation, reacting to Paul’s trade rumors heading to New York.

“I think the Knicks have to be open to a lot of different things, Fizdale said on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Friday. “Would he be a great fit for them? Absolutely. I think he would fit those kids — Mitchell Robinson going to the rim, they get more spacing, more shooting. Absolutely, he would fit. The big stage. He doesn’t get sick,” Fizdale said.

Paul would present both a short-term and long-term fix for the Knicks.

The 10-time All-Star would instantly help repair the Knicks’ credibility and become the face of culture rebuilt in New York that may attract marquee free agents to come and join him. At the same time, he will also fast-tracked the developmental timeline of their young core and perhaps lift them into a fringe playoff contender. However, Fizdale doesn’t see why Paul should want to go to a rebuilding team like the Knicks.

“His position fits the young players that they have. Mitchell Robinson needs a Chris Paul. RJ Barrett needs a Chris Paul. Kevin Knox needs a Chris Paul. Because of the position placement that’s why I say he could end up, especially in the bottom of the East you don’t know what’s gonna happen. He could squeak in probably if they have a couple of little things here and there but for him, I just don’t think it’s the right move for what he’s trying to get out of his career,” Fizdale explained.

Terrible fit

Even his co-guests analysts ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan and Paul Pierce agree that it’s a terrible fit.

“Awful fit! Awful fit on so many levels,” Elhassan said. “Number one, the Knicks’ whole thing on the summer of 2019, we missed out, guess what 2021 big free agents on the way, let’s keep that flexibility. So every deal they signed was either a two-year deal or a one-year deal. By doing this deal, they basically say: ‘you know what? Nevermind 2021!’ The plan, although we may not agree with what they did short-term. But in the long-term, the idea of kicking the ball ahead of 2021, that something we can get on board of, and when you talk about Chris Paul at his age and that salary the last couple of years of his deal, it just doesn’t fit with the timeline the Knicks are on it.”

“And from Chris Paul’s perspective, what am I gonna do? I’m going to a team and help them be the eighth seed and get swept in the first round? That’s not what he’s looking at this point of his career.”

Pierce would have wished for Paul to be in New York earlier in his career, but not this time where he should be chasing for a ring.

“C’mon man, you’re talking about a vet who’s obviously would be a Hall of Famer and a team that’s on a rebuild, a guy looking to secure his legacy by winning a championship. It’s a terrible fit just like what Amin said,” Pierce said.

Been there, done that

Fizdale, though, sees the wisdom of trading for Paul even if it hurts the cap space of the Knicks for the loaded 2021 free agency.

“I think you can’t try to go big-game hunting all the time,’’ Fizdale said. “You may plan for 2021, and think, I got this money. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to get the guys. I went through it.”

Fizdale and the Knicks sounded confident last year ahead of the free agency that they would net Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving after dumping Kristaps Porzingis to create a space for two superstars. But their plan backfired when the duo went instead to their across-the-bridge rival Brooklyn Nets, much to the Knicks fan base’s consternation.

Fizdale subsequently got fired in the middle of a disappointing season that saw the Knicks ending up in the lottery again. Erstwhile team president Steve Mills would soon follow months later.

Stay on course

Scott Perry remained the Knicks’ general manager, and Fizdale hoped that the organization had learned their lesson. 

“I think you gotta be meticulous about building your team and not think you’re just gonna land these big sharks all the time and so if you acquire winning pieces along the way that fit into the mentality you’re trying to build on your team, the type of guys you want to bring in to build your culture, you snatch them up while you can,” Fizdale said.

“And if a big fish is out there, yeah, you take him, but that should not knock you off from what you’re trying to do, or you see opportunities to improve your team along the way until 2021, you should take those opportunities.”

Fizdale’s advice is to stay on course with what Mills and Perry have envisioned. It remains to be seen whether Leon Rose’s leadership will produce better results that would bring the Knicks back into relevancy.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Brooklyn Nets: History is Meant to be Learned From

New Jersey Nets, Kenny Anderson

Owner Mikhail Prokhorov came in guns blazing following his purchase of the New Jersey Nets in 2010. With brash promises to fans including his infamous “five-year guarantee,” there was immense pressure from the start to build a contender. 

Rather than rebuild around young all-star center Brook Lopez, Prokhorov decided he wanted to make a splash.

This desperation was first displayed in 2011 at the February trade deadline. Looking to acquire Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, the Nets were eventually outbid by the Knicks. Refusing to be overshadowed by his crosstown rival, Prokhorov turned around and dealt for star point guard Deron Williams, who at the time, was considered a premier point guard in the game. To facilitate the deal, the Nets needed to part with all-star point guard Devin Harris, promising former third overall pick Derrick Favors, as well as two likely lottery, picks in years to come. 

Williams was close friends with Dwight Howard, and the two immediately became enamored with the idea of teaming up. Finding a way to acquire Howard would vault the Nets into instant title contenders. The Nets offered four first-round picks and franchise cornerstone Brook Lopez for Howard, but Orlando declined. Content on waiting until Howard became a free agent to sign him, rather than deplete assets, the Nets pulled out of talks. On one fateful plane ride, Howard changed his mind. 

Former Magic guard JJ Redick detailed how casual this decision was. 

“you know what, I love you guys. I’m coming back. And really, that was it! That was it! There was no, like — there wasn’t a heart-to-heart, it was just he was having a good time on the plane and decided he wanted to come back.”

In the blink of an eye, the Nets needed to turn their attention to alternate ways of building a contender around their superstar point guard. 

The 2012 trade deadline marked the Nets’ first desperate attempt to come back from missing out on Howard. A last-minute deal saw the Nets land high-energy forward Gerald Wallace in exchange for negligent pieces and a top-three protected first-rounder. 

Ben Falk, a former Blazers analytics manager, wrote last year on his site Cleaning the Glass that when Portland realized the Nets not only wanted Gerald Wallace badly but were willing to give up a top-three protected first-rounder for him, “My heart hit the gas pedal.” 

That quote has aged like fine wine, contrary to the trade. That draft pick fell at sixth overall and was used to select superstar point guard Damian Lillard. Maybe you’ve heard of him. 

This theme of casual dumping of draft picks for veterans who did not move the needle continues to haunt the Nets to this day. In a salary dump that saw them expel the roster of Troy Murphy, the Nets threw in a second-round pick to sweeten the pot. That pick became Draymond Green. 

The move to Brooklyn in 2012 came with added expectations as it was Prokhorov’s big promise being delivered. The franchise became more marketable and immediately was thrust into a rivalry with the Knicks, who were coming off a successful season that saw them land in the second seed in the Eastern Conference on the backs of Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. The Nets, hoping to compete right away, re-signed Williams, Wallace, and Lopez to deals that would cap-string the team, and traded for Joe Johnson, another high-priced star who was exiting his prime. The trade was contingent on the re-signing of Williams, as Johnson held a no-trade clause and would only be willing to leave if he knew he was going to be playing for a contender. 

The first season with this new core ended in a bitter disaster. After showing promise en route to a 49-33 finish, earning home-court advantage in the first round, the Nets were shocked in the Barclay’s Center in an intense game seven after blowing a 2-1 series lead and a seemingly insurmountable game-four lead that was decimated by Nate Robinson catching fire in a way he hasn’t at any other point in his career. 

The pressure continued to mount for Porkhorov and general manager Billy King. This reached a tipping point on draft night in 2013, when desperation led to the final blow for a Nets roster that had been building disaster for the better part of two years. 

The Nets moved on from four draft picks and offered two pick-swaps, among other pieces, in exchange for 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, 36-year-old Paul Pierce, and 36-year-old Jason Terry. This left the Nets with a roster with championship aspirations, but marginal room for error. Every former star needed to perform exceptionally, which did not quite pan out. Instead, the next two seasons became a script for the concept of Murphy’s Law. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. 

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge gave a statement following the trade in regards to Brooklyn’s desire to push for a championship. “So, Brooklyn showed a great deal of interest in putting a Dream Team together at any cost,” he said. 

This desperation left the Nets with little leverage, and thus had every asset possible pulled out from their disposal and fast-tracked the Celtics quest to rebuild. 

When blended together, the Nets five stars were consistent in one thing: underachieving. Williams struggled with injuries, Garnett and Pierce struggled with declining performance related to age, and Lopez was unable to find a role in the offense, which had been just about the only thing keeping him afloat in his career. Johnson provided late-game heroics and consistent clutch performances, but past his prime, he was unable to carry the lineup past Lebron James and the Miami Heat. 

This era came to an abrupt ending, with Pierce leaving after one year, and Garnett being openly unhappy with his long standing running mate. Trading away Garnett for Thaddeus Young left the Nets with nothing from the 2013 trade that gutted their assets, after only 1.5 seasons. 

In the summer of 2015, Williams’ was waived using the stretch provision. This marked the end of his tumultuous tenure with the Nets, one that was defined by inconsistencies and a failure to take the grips of a franchise in need of a savior. Half a season later, Johnson was bought out, ridding the Nets of all of their vaunted starting five except for Brook Lopez, who found himself in a similar position as before the team acquired Williams in the first place. But even Lopez ended up falling victim to the blow-up of the roster, as the team traded him for frustrating headcase D’Angelo Russell, who had a world of potential but couldn’t figure it out under the tutelage of Magic Johnson and the Lakers. 

This era in Nets history will always be remembered with embarrassment by fans, as the toxic culture of the team made them difficult to root for and hard to watch. That being said, if it weren’t for these mistakes, the current roster would not have been possible to obtain. Prokhorov backed off and let his front office do their jobs, completing a full rebuild, and now, even after he has sold the team, the contender he thought he had back in 2013 has taken shape.